It wasn't a picture perfect performance by USC in front of over 91,000 at FedEx Field but the scoreboard says the Trojans are now 1-0 and every player, coach and fan in Cardinal and Gold will gladly take the win and move forward in preparation to face Colorado State in two weeks at the Coliseum.
He's been tagged with the nickname "Mr. President" and even George W made special note of his namesake on the Trojan visit to the White House last spring for the national championship ceremony so it's no surprise that Reggie took charge of the game in a dynamic performance so close to the nations capital. He didn't have much success as a runner in this game but as a receiver he changed the outcome. Reggie had an impact in the first quarter including an intelligent play on the opening drive when he picked up a missed pass from Leinart, he correctly assumed the throw was a lateral, and sprinted for a long gain. He later scored the opening points of the game when Matt read a blitz and calmly dumped the ball to Reggie who outran the defenders to the end zone. In the second half, with the Trojan offense looking for a spark, he provided all the scoring we would need with two more touchdown receptions to put the game away. Perhaps this type of performance is what Norm Chow had in mind when he headed to St. Louis in the offseason to talk with Ram head coach Mike Martz about the different ways they get the ball to a multi-talented back like Marshall Faulk. Bush certainly brings his own set of impressive skills and the Trojans want to utilize him as much as possible with results similar to the ones we saw on Saturday night.
Notes from the Sidelines
Matt Leinart got off to a slow start (he was 4-10 to open the game) but he found his rythym in the 2nd half and ended up doing what it took when needed to lead his team to a victory. He had a key 4th sneak to keep a drive alive and hit some nice throws including a touch pass to Kirtman and a solid completion to Steve Smith for a 36 yard gain late in the game.....The captains for the game were Leinart, Shaun Cody, Matt Grootegoed and Jason Leach.....Chris McFoy got the start and blocked well. He barely missed a touchdown on the opening drive when he caught a deep pass just out of the end zone...Speaking of blocking, Alex Holmes did an exceptional job in this game, it's great to have him back.....Among the former USC players watching from the sidelines were Tony Boselli, Ricky Ervins, Petros Papadakis and Marlin McKeever.....The USC team hotel was located in Greenbelt, Maryland and was about a mile from Roosevelt HS which happens to be the school of top recruit Derrick Williams.....Manuel Wright is sporting an interlocking "SC" tattoo on his right bicep similar to the one belonging to Shaun Cody....LenDale White provided some power running behind the big SC offensive line. He had success early in the first quarter and then didn't get the ball again until he broke off three nice runs in a row late in the 2nd quarter. He just knows how to break tackles and pick up extra yardage....Lofa Tatupu provided one of the key plays in the game for the Trojans and it happened on the opening Va Tech drive. The Hokies were driving deep into SC territory when Bryan Randall attempted a pass over the middle only to have Lofa come up with the juggling interception which the Trojan offense promptly turned into a touchdown.....David Kirtman made a spectacular catch of his own down the Hokie sideline after Leinart rolled out and lofted the pass over the defender....Mike Patterson forced a late fumble which was recovered by Ronald Nunn....Frostee Rucker did a good job of playing assigment football when he was in the game.
Key to the Game - Third quarter shift
The Trojans had come out of the locker room after halftime down by a score of 10-7 with momentum on the side of Virginia Tech and their loud gathering of Hokie fans. The USC offense hadn't done much to that point but a timely 3rd quarter punt from Tom Malone pinned them deep in their own territory. Randall quickly moved the team out to midfield but it was freshman Jeff Schweiger who came up with a huge play with a sack. Schweiger was so excited upon getting his first taste of college action that he had run onto the field without his mouthpiece and had to run back to the sideline to retrieve it. Randall didn't let that stop him though as he converted the third down and then hit a long throw down the sideline to make it appear as if they would threaten again. Fortunately for the Trojans a PI penalty was called on the Hokie receiver to negate the play. The Trojan defensive line took over from there with a tackle for loss from Cody and Schweiger followed by a sack from Lawrence Jackson to force a punt. Leinart huddled with the offense on the sidelines before bringing them onto the field and quickly hitting Lee Webb for a nice gain and then he hooked up with Bush for their 2nd TD pass of the night. Killeen then put the kickoff deep into the end zone and Va Tech was unable to mount much of an offense for the remainder of the night.
It was a humid night at FedEx Field, the Trojans had practiced in hotter weather during camp but the humidity is a factor that you simply can't totally prepare for unless you practice in that climate. The Trojans had their share of players who felt the drain (Rucker, Tatupu, Lutui, Nunn) and as a result we saw several reserves get plenty of time as Schweiger, Oscar Lua, Kyle Williams and Eric Wright all saw extended action. On top of the humid conditions there was also the loud noise from the Hokie fans and the somewhat unexpected firepower from Va Tech QB Bryan Randall. Randall, who came into the game as one of the highest rated active throwers in the nation in terms of completion percentage, did a good job of stretching the USC defense from sideline to sideline with his running ability and solid play fakes. The defensive line wasn't able to get much pressure or contain Randall early while on the other side of the ball Leinart saw as much pressure as he's seen as the Trojan QB. The USC receiving corps showed signs of inexperience with some dropped passes and poor splits on certain plays while lining up on the line of scrimmage. The game seemed to change in the 2nd half when USC came out and was able to establish more of a vertical passing game. Leinart got into a groove and once that happened the Trojans were able to pull out the closer than expected win. There will be plenty for the USC coaches to work on, Coach Carroll couldn't have been pleased with the two illegal formation penalties which took away a pair of Malone punts that would've pinned the Hokies deep in their end while we tried to run out the clock, and they will have two weeks on the practice field to work things out before having to play their next game. In this case, a win is a win and we will certainly take it and move on.